California Educator

February/March 2020

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just as they would at any time of the year, but the idea that the gap widens over the summer is almost certainly overblown — and there's an abundance of evidence that play has significant emotional and cognitive benefits. Cut the arts at your own risk I n a m a j o r n e w s t u d y f r o m R i c e University involving 10,000 students in third through eighth grades, researchers determined that expanding a school's arts programs improved writing scores, i n c re a s e d th e stu d e n t s' c o m p a ssi o n for oth ers, and redu c ed di sciplinar y i n f r a c t i o n s . T h e b e n e f i t s o f s u c h programs may be especially pronounced for students who come from low-income families, according to a 10-year study of 30,000 students released in 2019. Unexpectedly, another recent study found that artistic commitment — think of a budding violinist or passionate young thespian — can boost executive function skills like focus and working memor y, linking the arts to a set of overlooked skills that are highly correlated to success in both academics and life. Disability: early intervention and teacher training Fa i l i n g t o i d e n t i f y a n d su p p o r t stu - dents with learning di sabilities early can have dire, long-term consequences. I n a c o m p r e h e n s i v e 2 0 1 9 a n a l y s i s , re s e a rc h e r s h i g h li g h t e d th e n e e d t o provide inter ventions that align with critical phases of early brain develop- ment. In one startling example, reading inter ventions for children with learn- ing disabilities were found to be twice as ef fective if delivered by the second grade instead of third grade. But only 17 percent of teachers say th ey feel adequat ely train ed by th eir certification programs, according to a new report from leading experts — and in th e abs en c e of go o d infor m ation , misconceptions take root. For exam- ple, researchers found that one-third of teachers believe that learning disabili- ties ref lect a lack of motivation, not a difference in brain development. To sup- port students with learning disabilities, we must also tackle the pervasive myths that can stymie their potential. More Z's may yield more A's When the Seattle School District delayed high school start times by an hour, stu- dents caught an extra 34 minutes of sleep per day, and their grades improved by about 5 percent while absences decreased by 7 percent. e new research highlights the ways in which traditional high school start times — which aren't aligned to teenagers' natural circadian rhythms — can cause physical, mental and cognitive health problems. W h i l e p r e v i o u s s t u d i e s r e l i e d o n anecdotal or self-reported evidence to establish a link between sleep, academic performance and school start times, the new research is the first high-quality sci- entific study to quantify the real-world benefits of delaying start times for high school students. Fewer warnings for black students Compared with their white peers, black middle school students were given fewer chances to correct their misbehavior before being sent to the principal's office or being suspended, according to a 2019 study from the University of Illinois. e finding is the latest in a long line of similarly disturbing conclusions about race and discipline in schools, with most research agreeing that black students are disproportionately suspended or expelled compared with their peers. Last year, for example, a study found that while an astonishing 40 percent of black boys were suspended or expelled by third grade, only 8 percent of boys who were non-Hispanic white or other races were. Paper beats screens — but read the fine print Virginia Clinton, an education profes- sor at the University of North Dakota, a n aly z e d 3 3 stu di e s p ub li sh e d si n c e 2 0 0 8 a n d f o u n d t h a t c h i l d r e n a n d adults tend to remember more of what they 've read on paper compared with digital devices such as e-readers, tab- lets and computers. But there's a catch: Many of the inher- ent advantages of digital devices — such as hyperlinking, commenting and multi- media — were eliminated to allow for "direct comparisons of the media ." In addition, the actual advantages of paper were "rather small," the study conceded. Th e n ewest digital reading tool s can enhance note taking, encourage students to read collaboratively, and incorporate pop quizzes — all of which can clearly tilt the benefits in digital's favor. Growth mindset falters, then recovers O n e of th e m o st p opul ar th e ori e s in education was put to the test last year when a large meta-analysis found that g r o w t h m i n d s e t i n t e r v e n t i o n s h a d "weak" benefits — although at-risk stu- dents did see bigger gains. But a new national study, this one encompassing more than 12,000 ninth grade students, gives new life to the theory. Unlike previous studies, the new one employed a multipron ged appro a ch . S t u d e n t s w e r e t a u g h t a p o w e r f u l m e t a p h o r : " Th e b ra i n i s li ke a m u s - cl e th at g row s stron ger an d sm ar t er w h en it und ergoes rigorous l earnin g e xp eri en c e s ." Th e y al s o ref l e c t e d on their own learning and gave advice to future students w ho were str uggling. The result? Students saw modest gains of one-tenth of a grade point and were a l s o 9 p e r c e n t m o r e l i k e l y t o t a k e advanced math courses the following year. Students who were academically at ri sk saw major gains, howe ver : 11 p e r c e n t w e re p re v e n t e d f r o m b e i n g off-track to graduate. Youki Terada reports on education research for Edutopia. This story first appeared on 53 F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H 2 0 2 0

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